Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Beards and Beers....

OK, many of us have heard about the (CSU) Charleston Southern University professor who got fired because of beer.

No, not for drinking it.

For having his picture plastered on cans of the evil stuff.

Seems the school, formerly called Baptist College of Charleston, is very stern about drinking and, I guess, anything at all that has to do with it.

The man has a great beard but it was carefully groomed for the photo shoot and REALLY grabs your attention!

Associate Professor Paul Roof does not look like his in his everyday life, on or off campus.

I wore a beard for five years - but never came even close to the class main man's lofty hirsute grandeur.

In fact when I shaved it off, my friends eyed me suspiciously and asked if I was wearing a new sweater.

Or maybe a flashy (narrow knit) tie.

I had to remind them I used to have a beard!

For half a decade.

Hairy faces on beer labels is hardly new.

This poor Scot has to juggle a hefty glass of foamy thirst-quencher AND a set of bagpipes.

More than likely, while wearing a kilt and topped by a jaunty tam 'o shanter.

Last time I held a mug that large was at Okktoberfest in Munich. Which, of course, happens in September.

People don't tend to make fun of a sturdy bearded lumberjack on the front of Timber Beast Rye IPA.

Especially if he has a double-head axe resting on his plaid-shirted shoulder.

And a knit cap.

(What's with beer and guys wearing facial hair AND a hat?)

Babe the Blue Ox often would be included in the image of axe-toting Paul Bunyan.

Well, I lived in Minnesota for a year (yes, it was Winter every day) and the image has stayed with me.

Even in the heat and humidity of a Charleston August.

Another bearded beer that caught my eye is Rico Sauvin, an American IPA with an ABV of 7.60%.

This was some quick research conducted in the fairly new TBC (The Beer Cellar) near 1050 E. Montague in North Charleston's Park Circle area. It's Suite "D" so come around the corner. You'll spot it easily. Has a tiny wooden deck.

The two owners were patient with me and my camera as I moved things around to get shots of hairy faces on labels and posters of beer cans and bottles.

John Judson, left, and Ryan Hendrick, have put together a large assortment of craft beers - and growler fills - in a rather small space.

They quickly picked up on where I was going...linking beers and beards.

Well, they have a right to be as they are involved with both.

(Click on the photos for more detail.)

Like most people, I keep two empty growler jugs, cushioned, in the trunk of my car.

This way, when I come across a tasty draft beer new to me, I can have a bottle filled, sealed and take it home.

Hmm, my new diet has really slammed that shut but I'm working on eating more veggies to offset the carbs and sugars that make beer taste so good!

My bare-faced approach to this posting has NOT tempted me to re-grow my beard.

In the past it was thick and dark blonde.

Now, it would be salt with no pepper.

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Pictures of some Hot Shots...

Today's temperature topped out at 98 degrees.

I think they are still adding up the numbers for the "heat index."

It goes a LOT higher.

I believe that would be like the "chill factor" we hear about during the Winter.

Almost a dozen members of my photography group met this morning at North Charleston's Riverfront Park for a photo shoot.

A delightful young model named Kirsten joined us so we could practice lighting and composition.

Most brought round "pop-up" reflectors to bounce light into a scene.

Some are silvery shiny, or dull white and, some are golden to cast a warmer light.

Today I saw one used that filtered sunlight to block and soften direct sunlight.

There were ten of us and the breeze off the river helped us cope with the heat.

We chose to work in the shade a lot!

When we moved to a new spot it happened to place us directly in front of the Pineda family.

They were cooling off and, seated at a picnic table, were preparing to have a quiet lunch.

We DO bring a lot of activity and they had a front row seat.

We experimented with various reflectors to move light around to suit a mood.

One avid photographer plopped down on his stomach to get a low angle.
With that many people aiming cameras at you, Kirsten, the model, would respond when one of us asked for a smile

Or  to make a hand movement or perhaps maybe a flick of her head to move her hair.

As requested, she was somber, sultry, smiling , laughing or pensive.

And that's just the requests I heard fired at her.

She gave me a nice smile. With laughing eyes. I like it.

My shot up at the top of her sitting on the grass would have been better if I had aimed down more to eliminate the harsh contrasting sunny grass behind her.

When in the shade, it's best to keep the entire image in that subdued lighting.

I did like her Mona Lisa-like smile though.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

I'll close with an example of excessive post-production effort on a back-lighted photo.

It's another example of balancing bright light vs shade.

My efforts to balance the two sources created a cartoon effect with exaggerated contrasts, color and textures.

When using Plug-Ins and Photoshop, it's best to err on the side of realistic.

When the attempts are too extreme and draw the viewers attention, it has gone "too far."

Well, it was a learning experience kind of day.

I sure liked her smile!

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

CSN at the PAC...

 Of course I remember their music!

Crosby Stills Nash came to town Tuesday and I was seated right down front.

Noticed when I came in, there was a much larger section of the parking lot reserved for those with handicap parking stickers.

A lot more.

I did see a few younger people in the crowd...probably there with their grandparents.

But the crowd loved all the songs. The old ones from four decades ago and some fresh new material.

Someone shouted out "Happy birthday, David!" but I checked later and found it's actually August 14th.

He's 73 today.

They sounded good and showed a lot of stamina. Still got it!

I was seated next to a couple who had driven down from Roanoke, Virginia and they said this was one of their all time best musical groups.

They knew the band would be in their hometown (tonight I think) but they could not get tickets! It was sold out.

Time to drive south.

"I've always wanted to visit Charleston so this is a special time for us," the wife said.

"David is my husband's favorite so could you take a picture for me? My phone camera stinks," she added.

Stephen Stills is a fantastic lead guitar.

He would play a spell then wander stage right up to the edge and fans had their cameras clicking.

Well, some were iPhones but I did see several DSLRs too.

Ushers had told the crowd when we came in no flash photography please and no video recordings.

Seem like a fair exchange. I got to take pictures and they were not bothered by flashes.

They put up with those distracting bright lights for four decades. Used to be flash cubes or bulbs. Yikes.

I lost track of how many guitars were used during the show but they are not shy about praising the company that makes their choice instruments.

It's nice to listen to a band that is known for its harmony singing...and they still work well together.

We heard some peace songs and some protest songs and other Vietnam-era music. And some Dylan.

And a few songs by each from their respective former bands.

David, Stephen and Graham are in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice.

As a group and as members of The Hollies, The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield.

Here's two extra shots of David Crosby for the husband who drove down from Virginia.

Not sure if any of the band mentioned what was in the stainless steel travel mugs.

It might have been coffee or an energy drink.

This diet I'm on discourages me from sipping beers while I'm at a concert but, I did have one at dinner through.


(Click on the photos for more details.)

Having a good camera and being seated in the second row, it's fun to share what I've seen.

Some people drove all the way down from Virginia.

I'm glad the sun finally came out while they were here.

(Oh. Today is the 45th anniversary of Woodstock!)

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Cat: movin' on up.......

 "Well, THIS is new," the cat thought.

Sniffing around the base, she finally  decided to hop up to the first level.

Curious, she climbed atop the round shape and reached higher.

"Definitely NOT litter boxes," she decided.

(Whew! I had worried about that.)

At Costco, it was described as a Kitty Condo.

It replaced a sisel rope scratching post I had built for her several years ago so she would not use her claws on the couch or my carpets.

In fact, I believe the label said this carpeting was infused with catnip.

Is that legal here in South Carolina?

Colorado, sure, and soon, Washington state.

But here?

You have to keep a single indoor cat entertained and amused or they start to get mischievous and that's not good.

My cat Wallis sleeps most of the day. And, I suppose, all night too.

In her self-styled "hammock."

She tore some cloth loose on the bottom of the bed's box springs and crawls up in there out of sight.

Day and night. Forming a lump hanging under the bed.

Even for cat naps.

Or, sometimes, on the couch.

This multi-level climbing addition should give her more options for adventures... and sleeping accommodations.

If there is indeed catnip involved, that would be an added bonus.

I wanted to snap pictures of her exploring when she first saw the new tall thing.

Later I realized it had a very busy background for a photo.

The Clone tool on my Photo Shop Elements 10 enabled me to cover up a wall light switch and a plug and cord as well as "take the framed award" off the wall.

For future pictures, I'll probably just move  what's hanging behind her.

Even the calendar with cute cat pictures.

Funny what you don't see when your focus is trying to catch the cat as she climbs up and around and then jumps down to the floor.

With an audible THUD.

So far Wallis has landed on her feet.

And nothing has tipped over.

 If the furiously wagging tail is an indicator, It's safe to say it has her approval.

(Click on the photos for more detail.)

If you are a cat person," feel free to make comments.

Hmmm...I think she has found the catnip.

Moderation, kitty, moderation.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Old bank ad: "Open an account, get a free toaster!"

I guess you have to be of a certain age for that ad to sound familiar.

The age that remembers dish cloths tucked inside boxes of detergent to get you to buy that brand..

Or, glassware and dishes given away free at movie theaters.

Probably also know about S & H Greenbax stamps that you licked, stuck into a booklet and redeemed for prizes or gifts.

And lay-a-way shopping and having a Christmas Club account that you used for buying holiday presents.

OK, now returning to banks offering toasters.

My bank, South Coast Community, just handed me this free USB Power Bank.

Just for filling out an application and requesting their credit card.

Not a huge story. Just an observation.

Back when banks gave away toasters, people did not have smart phones, iPads and other devices that could need an emergency stored power supply.  Back then, most transactions were in cash or with a check.

Grocery store register counters still have a small shelf that you pull out to use when you write a check.

I don't even own a toaster.

But, I have a smartphone.

And, sometimes,  I use it to bank online.

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Sunday, August 03, 2014

Life without French fries.....

This diet thing is going quite well!

Am learning some basic, simple rules for success as the pounds are dropping off.

FRIED is not good and BEER is not my friend.

Hmmm. I grew up in the South so those two were staples.

Time for adjustments.

No fries and had the shrimp and scallops grilled.  One side was sliced tomatoes and the other was zucchini.
Oh yes, the two tiny hush puppies were NOT put aside.

I was on a photo shoot starting in Awendaw at the Sewee Lowcountry Environmental Education Center.

Saw some female red wolves who had just been fed, as they prowled their vast natural penned-up enclosure.

Driving up to McClellanville, it was time for lunch and I knew these were local - and very fresh - shrimp!

The shrimp fleet - basically at anchor on this Saturday, cloudy day - looked much larger than what we have at Shem Creek. The dockside store had a variety of large, medium and small  "heads on" shrimp.

Photographers really  do respect people's property.

We decided this sign was placed there to stop cars from parking in that space.

It was not fenced.

Just two posts and a chain.

Despite a brief sprinkle, the docks attracted several out-of-town families who were sight-seeing.

They had the added treat of watching two dolphin swimming back and forth looking for food.

Good photo opp.

We left  this scenic area, driving back up Oak Street to Pinckney and back to highway 17 north.

Our late afternoon goal was to attend an open house in Pawley's Island/Litchfield Beach.

Seeing a fleet of shrimp trawlers is a fairly common sight around here.

Sometimes my eye focuses on a particular detail in the scene and I explore it further.

This shot of boat lines was also adjusted with a plug-in filter from Topaz.

It's called "lens effect" and I used it to keep the center sharp while making the surrounding area soft focus.

I like the end result.

Before we drove away from the docks, I switched my small digital camera to a black & white setting.

The arching canopy oaks gave the name to the street.

I also shot this view in color but think I like this version more.

The forecast for rain kept many members away from venturing out but I know a cloudy day sometimes produces soft lighting without harsh shadows.

I also keep a large golf umbrella and rain poncho in the trunk of my car. LOL.
The paper mill in Georgetown showed there was a pretty stiff breeze blowing left to right.

Its output blended and mingled with the low scudding clouds.

Again, a few scattered sprinkles, but nothing to warrant opening my umbrella.

Still set for black and white, it was a good scene to capture with my Canon sx260 HS camera.

While my diet discourages me from drinking beers, it does suggest maybe a glass of red wine instead.

In Georgetown, we found spaces near the park where fire ravaged the area a year ago.

The Big Tuna is a quirky waterside bar and restaurant, just a few buildings away from the damaged area.

Had the feeling it had been here a long time.

I noticed a mural and angled to include it in my picture of my glass of wine. This is a 4-second exposure in a dark bar so my tiny attached tripod enabled me to avoid camera movement.

The wait staffers at Big Tuna are pretty sharp.

They saw us with cameras and taking a break.

They made sure we got our beers quickly - and poured me a red wine.

They were curious about the pictures we took of their bar.

Oh, and gave me a sticker with their logo. Just in case.

We continued driving up 17 North, through Pawley's Island, to the edge of Litchfield Beach.

Geoffrey Sean Thompson (seated on the right) has an excellent gallery there, filled with his professional nature photos and the enlarged prints he makes on site.

"Sean" also teaches photography and formed a group of about 80-90 outdoors nature photographers and wannabes.

A member of my group also belonged to the nature photographers group so we came to attend Thompson's 4:30 to 6:30 open house and, later, a nature walk with his members at Huntington Beach State Park.
Unfortunately, I had to get back to Charleston so I missed the stroll on the beach.

It looked like he had a sizable number of members with cameras so I'm sure it was a delightful evening.

Quite a few cameras, bags and accessories were placed on the swap-and-sell table in the gallery.

Both film and digital items were up for grabs.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

A group like this knows NOT to stare at the camera.

I enjoyed their cooperation and sipped another glass of wine.

Nice day.

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

I'm About A PINT Low....

If you spot someone wearing this stretchy "red badge of courage," they probably just donated blood.

I had not seen this before but, then, I had not been to the Red Cross Blood Donor center before.

According to statistics, most people just never think about it.

An article in the paper the other day reminded me - and hopefully everyone else - that donations had dropped to an all time low.
The long weekend for the 4th of July was mentioned as a possible cause as many donors were away.

The article had caught my eye.

Only a few days before, I was talking with my doctor's office and mentioned I had no idea what my blood type was. *

"On your next blood test, they can type it for you. There will be an additional cost, " the nurse mentioned.

Hmm. I could do a good thing and receive a bonus of learning a basic fact about my body and it's precious fluid.

The paperwork and a check of my vitals (pulse, blood pressure and temperature) at the West Ashley ARC Donor Center took about 15-20 minutes.

Sitting back in the comfortable lounge, the actual collecting of a pint of my blood took only 6 minutes.

I didn't even open the red cover paperback I had brought.

And, it was painless. These ladies are VERY good at what they do!

"Is 6 minutes a new record?" I asked. I was told there have been 3 minute donations. Yikes.

That person could just double park out front in Harrell Square on Sam Rittenberg Boulevard.

Pop In, donate a pint and pop out.

It was suggested I go to the refreshment table, get rehydrated and eat a small snack.

If you're going to feel woozy or faint, that would be a good place to be.

I felt fine and talked with two donors who were eating popcorn and drinking sodas.

They each had donated many, many times and welcomed me into the club.

We exchanged names and the lady asked if I by any chance knew a Dennis Boyd.
I smiled and said I was at my brothers house the night before with his visiting son and family and three of his wife's sisters.

I learned we had mutual friends back in Bishop England high days.

When the school was still downtown on Calhoun Street.

I've been dieting so I chose just one small packet of chocolate chip cookies to go along with my bottled water.

As I said, now I was "down a pint" and water intake is encouraged.

Hot, humid July days in Charleston means drinking lots of water is good.

According to Red Cross documents, I could give another donation in about two months.

In 56 days to be precise.

But, I don't think I'll just double park and run inside.

Want to stick around for some delicious cookies. Even a diet allows for this.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

Also be sure to check the link to the Red Cross.

They still need donors.

And people still will need blood.

Maybe even someone you know.

*Here's an update: I found my blood type is AB+

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014 more CABLE television for me.

I'm in the midst of "cutting the cord." 

That's what people call it when you cancel your cable television service. 

Instead, now I simply plug in my $39.95 Leaf 30  indoor HDTV antenna.antenna.

Not $39.95 per month.

$39.95 just one time.

To receive all 3 major networks, PBS and half a dozen more local stations.

I was amazed at the clarity and the vivid colors.

And I have a BIG (60 inch) tv screen to fill and anything less than sharp and crisp would not slip by.

For about a decade and a half - or longer - I have paid one of two cable companies MY dollars to receive television programming. 

I am old enough to remember the 1950s when we got our very first black & white television set.

It was a CBS brand in a heavy steel cabinet. And, the programs appeared like magic on the screen in our living room.

Well, Charleston had only three stations, for only several hours a day. Recall test patterns?

They all signed off at midnight.

And each played the National Anthem.

Then the screen became just gray and white static, with a sizzling sound

But the programs were for free.

You bought the set and added rabbit ears.

Zero dollars for "programming."

Recently it reached a point where I realized I had access to more than 700 channels. Yikes.

About a year ago, I dropped Comcast after almost 15 years.

The cost just kept going up and up and up and its customer service was embarrassingly bad.

I think they came up with a new company name because Comcast was being called some pretty negative things.

This move cut my monthly bill from a high of $135 to "only" $115 a month for the privilege of watching only a few sports, some Comedy Channel shows and the evening news.

I also now had started streaming Netflix movies using my ROKU device and my Chromecast sent tv images off my computer screen to my large screen tv.

I could not tell you about any of the network shows because I didn't watch that much tv. But, the bill came through each month loud and clear and I paid it.

Of course, that monthly bill included internet access. 

Well, you HAVE to be up-to-date on that for your computer and email but 700+ television channels choices? Right now, being online is a necessary evil that only the cable companies can provide.

BUT, more companies  such as Apple and Amazon have come out with their own ROKU-type devices for inexpensive alternative programming and, in Kansas City, Google Fiber came up with a high speed internet service using buried fiber optics. At 100x the normal download speed with no cable company involved at all.

Google has already added that fiber optic service in Provo, Utah; Austin, Texas and is looking at Charlotte, N.C. and Atlanta. 

Once my plug-in antenna was working, I called my cable company and cancelled my tv programming but - for the moment - kept the 12/15 mbps speed online link. It's a costly $56 per month (plus taxes and fees).

Then I called Xfinity and signed up for its online 25 mbps download speed service for an introductory $29.96 a month for 12 months. Once that starts, I'll switch over, drop Wow! and hope that in a year, the online service has changed drastically.

Hmm. Charleston is the number one U.S. destination for tourism. And we have a Google Data Center in Berkeley County.

Mayor Riley, maybe Google Wi-Fi and internet service for here could be the icing on your Mayoral cake?

(All the art came from online so probably not going to change much if you do click.)

But DO check the links for all these new marvels.

I'm in awe.

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Friday, July 18, 2014

This is NOT just pocket change....

There's a sign of change going on this weekend.

And, a change of signs.

As of now, obviously, there is no "i" in First.

First Federal is changing its name to something, something Bank.

 When I came back to Charleston and started doing business with them in 1993, I believe they were still a Savings & Loan. Or a Trust.

Would have to be a much bigger sign to get all THAT up there.

The guys on the ladders gave me and my camera a glance but got back to work, taking down the old name.

One letter at a time.

An image of  Vanna White went through my mind as I watched them tugging and prying to remove each letter.

Oh, that's right, she ADDS letters to the puzzle on "The Wheel."

This was late on a Friday and I saw that the large sign standing out front was now flat on the ground.

These fellows had been busy.

I remember a funny Steve Allen phone call he made while hosting the very new Tonight Show.

He told "Big A Cleaners" that he had a large cloth letter, an A,  that was very dirty.

Well, maybe you had to be there in my living room, but I remember laughing hard.

I posted a blog a while back about the time I met Mr. Allen - in his home - where he recorded a short script I had written.

That is, after he expertly edited and shortened it. "Too many words," he advised me.

Yeah, I get that a lot.

But, back to this sign deal.

South State Bank is the new name and here's one of the signs that are going up all over town this weekend.

And all over the region.

It's the result of a major merger and affects banks large and small in cities and towns throughout three states.

Even in Vanna's hometown of Myrtle Beach.

I was driving to the Tanger Outlet Stores today and saw - or rather did NOT see - the sign in front of my bank.

(Click on the photos for more details)

Years ago I had seen a house trailer being used as a temporary bank, next to where the real brick & mortar one was being built.

Wasn't too comfortable with the idea of depositing my money in a bank that was on wheels.

F rst Federal, er, I mean, South State is making sure all its depositors are well informed about the changes.

That's a good sign.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

NYC ...Soaring over the East River!

 So, you've seen the view from the top of the Empire State building.

Or been on the 70th floor at "Top Of The Rock."

Guess you've seen it all from above in New York City.

Hey, not so fast. There's the RIAT.

That's the Roosevelt Island Aerial Tram.

It wil whisk you up, up and away over and above the famed East River.

I think of trams like this at ski resorts but it's June in The City and we tourists are all about getting lots of views.

The Tramway Plaza is at East 60th and the foot of the Queensborough Bridge.

Lots of small children in the "car" when I soared up on cables.

We all were heading past the Queensborough which, I noticed, has two layers of auto traffic.

Hey, when you build a bridge, get the most out of it that you can.

When I walked the Brooklyn Bridge, I was surprised to see it had a wooden pedestrian deck.

Actually, I had seen the green gecko in the GEICO television insurance ads, walking along, talking while dodging bikers and walkers.

It was a quiet day on the East River.

Saw a tour boat come under the bridge while we looked down as we sailed overhead.

Bet the tourists craned their necks and took pictures of us. I would have.

Didn't realize until later that the glass all around us was great for viewing but also reflected back and I had to be careful which photo I selected to visually share the adventure.

You can get to Roosevelt Island by bus and, I suppose, by subway. But why would you?

Walked around, stopped at the Visitors Center and a nice New Yorker told us where to get a cup of coffee and a sandwich.

Both were good and the place was not crowded at all.

The ride back was also delightful.

Here's a link to a video a person put together to share the sights he or she saw. Did a lot of additional shooting as "cut-ins" showing different points of view. Very well done.

Be sure to make a note to take the tram during your next visit to NYC. It's a nice offbeat trip.

Another "different" experience is around the corner from the Ed Sullivan Theater where I saw the Late Show with David Letterman.

"Rupert G." was behind the counter at his  Hello Deli that Dave likes to have pop up on his show.

He was kind enough to pose for this picture so I felt obligated to buy something.

He is bagging the dark blue t-shirt I bought. It's like the one displayed on the wall.

I did not realize until now his name is Rupert Jee.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

Thanks for tagging along today.

Well, J-E-E is pronounced Gee.

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